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Four NEO Organizations Agree to Partner to Boost Early-Stage Entrepreneurship in Northeast Ohio

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Collaboration Will Support Early-Stage Business Formation and Investment in the Region

Four Northeast Ohio organizations have joined forces to create a powerful center to support early-stage entrepreneurs in the region. The new entity, to be called JumpStart Inc., brings together EnterpriseDevelopment, Inc., NEOpreneur Inc., JumpStart Angel Fund LLC (nowrenamed JS I), and NEOpreneur Exchange.

The process began late last year when Case Western Reserve University and NorTech announced an agreement to merge Enterprise Development, Inc. and NEOpreneur, Inc. Integrating the services of NEOpreneur Exchange and formally partnering with JumpStart Angel Fund LLC (now JS I) results in a more focused organization with a clear goal of stimulating early-stage business development and investment in a region that is working hard to diversify its economy.

The launch of JumpStart Inc. was announced Thursday, January 22nd before more than 400 attendees at Pickwick & Frolic in downtown Cleveland. Its mission and vision are simple: 

To deliver vital, focused resources to entrepreneurs and the community, accelerating the growth of early-stage businesses and ideas into venture ready companies, and to ultimately transform Northeast Ohio into a nationally significant center of entrepreneurship and innovation.

A 25-member Board of Directors chaired by Lou Schneeberger, a veteran of numerous successful public and private business enterprises,will lead the united organization. The board held its first meeting on Wednesday, January 21. In addition to Schneeberger, the board is comprised of academic, business development, and entrepreneurial leaders representing the Northeast Ohio region.   

Ray Leach, former Associate Director of NorTech and serial entrepreneur, will serve as JumpStart's founding CEO.

"The community has perceived a need for a new direction and business model to support early-stage business development and investment in Northeast Ohio," said Schneeberger. "The creation of JumpStart Inc. personifies this dramatic change, and the urgency to move forward with the very important work of investing resources into early-stage, high-growth businesses that have the promise to help diversify our economy and create long-term economic wealth for the region. I'm thankful to all of the individuals and organizations that helped to bring us to this important point of cooperation and change. JumpStart Inc. looks forward to delivering results that make a difference for everyone."

"We are very grateful that the board of JS I have agreed to let us utilize their original name, as I believe it accurately conveys the speed at which we hope to transform our regional economy", said Ray Leach. "JS I's Managing Director, Lynn-Ann Gries, has also agreed to serve as the Chief Investment Officer for the new JumpStart Inc. organization. The opportunity to leverage off the success that Gries and JS I have had makes perfect sense for the new entity. I very much look forward to working with Lynn-Ann."

David Goldberg, a co-founder and board member of JS I, commented, "Partnering with this new organization makes perfect sense for everyone involved. We will continue to invest in the same way that we originally envisioned. JumpStart Inc. will enable us and all angel investors to leverage our combined expertise and experience to invest more money and make a more significant difference for high-growth,early-stage entrepreneurs living in Northeast Ohio."

Jim Hummer, a founder of the NEOpreneur Exchange initiative, states, "NEOpreneur Exchange has been an entrepreneurial effort that I believe has delivered on its initial mission. I look forward toJumpStart extending the reach of these initiatives in a more frequent and dramatic way." 

Leach expressed similar sentiments about NEOpreneur Exchange. "The vision, energy, and excitement we've seen at the NEOpreneur Exchange events are critical to what JumpStart Inc. intends to accomplish. We need to be a center of communication for all stakeholders interested in the development of early-stage companies. The NEOpreneur Exchange initiatives will serve as one of the key foundations in making this happen."

Brad Whitehead, Senior Program Officer for Economic Development Initiatives of the Cleveland Foundation, commented, "JumpStart represents an important step towards the kind of focus, scale, and collaboration needed in each of the major areas of economic development in our region. World-class opportunities demand world-class talent and resources. We applaud NorTech and Case for providing the leadership to make this type of change happen." 

About JS I

JS I, originally called JumpStart Angel Fund LLC, is a Cleveland seed capital fund created by business and academic leaders to provide start-up capital to companies headquartered in Northeast Ohio. Twenty-three angel investors and institutions contributed $100,000 each, for a total of $2.3 million. Individual investors in the fund have committed to serve as mentors to the management teams and will likely fulfill this role through Board membership. A typical JS I investment amount is in the range of $100,000 to $250,000. JS I has been based at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. It will continue to operate as an angel investing organization.

About NEOpreneur Exchange

NEOpreneur Exchange was created in 2002 by a group of successful Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs as a forum for networking and the exchange of ideas. The primary focus of the group has been its large-scale events, which combine pure social activity with structured interchange. The key drivers of NEOpreneur Exchange include Cleveland industrialist and serial entrepreneur Dan T. Moore, James Hummer, president and chief executive officer of Whole Health Management, Inc., and Kelly Victory, M.D., a serial entrepreneur in the health care field.